Water fluoridation is the practice of adding industrial-grade fluoride chemicals to water for the purpose of preventing tooth decay. One of the little known facts about this practice is that the United States, which fluoridates over 70% of its water supplies, has more people drinking fluoridated water than the rest of the world combined. Most developed nations, including all of Japan and 97% of western Europe, do not fluoridate their water.
In the United States, the Oral Health Division of the Centers Disease Control (CDC) hails fluoridation as one of the “top ten public health achievements of the 20th century.” However, comprehensive data from the World Health Organization reveals that there is no discernible difference in tooth decay between the minority of western nations that fluoridate water, and the majority that do not. In fact, the tooth decay rates in many non-fluoridated countries are now lower than the tooth decay rates in fluoridated ones.
As is becoming increasingly clear, fluoridating water supplies is an outdated, unnecessary, and dangerous relic from a 1950s public health culture that viewed mass distribution of chemicals much differently than scientists do today. The few nations that still fluoridate their water should end the practice. Here’s three reasons why:
Three Reasons to End Water Fluoridation
Reason #1: Fluoridation Is an Outdated Form of Mass Medication
Unlike all other water treatment processes, fluoridation does not treat the water itself, but the person consuming it. The Food & Drug Administration accepts that fluoride is a drug, not a nutrient, when used to prevent disease. By definition, therefore, fluoridating water is a form of medication. This is why most western European nations have rejected the practice — because, in their view, the public water supply is not an appropriate place to be adding drugs, particularly when fluoride is readily available for individual use in the form of toothpaste.
Reason #2: Fluoridation Is Unnecessary and Ineffective
The most obvious reason to end fluoridation is that it is now known that fluoride’s main benefit comes from topical contact with the teeth, not from ingestion. Even the CDC’s Oral Health Division now acknowledges this. There is simply no need, therefore, to swallow fluoride, whether in the water, toothpaste, or any other form. Further, despite early claims that fluoridated water would reduce cavities by 65%, modern large-scale studies show no consistent or meaningful difference in the cavity rates of fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.
Reason #3: Fluoridation Is Not a Safe Practice
First, there is no dispute that fluoridation is causing millions of children to develop dental fluorosis, a discoloration of the teeth that is caused by excessive fluoride intake. Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control have even acknowledged that fluoridation is causing “cosmetically objectionable” fluorosis on children’s front teeth–an effect that can cause children embarrassment and anxiety at an age when physical appearance is the single most important predictor of self-esteem.
Second, it is known that fluoridated water caused severe bone disease in dialysis patients up until the late 1970s (prior to dialysis units filtering fluoride). While dialysis units now filter out the fluoride, research shows that current fluoride exposures are still resulting in dangerously high bone fluoride levels in dialysis patients and patients with other advanced forms of kidney disease. It is unethical to compromise the health of some members in a population to obtain a purported benefit for another — particularly in the absence of these vulnerable members’ knowing consent.
And, finally, a growing body of evidence reasonably indicates that fluoridated water, in addition to other sources of daily fluoride exposure, can cause or contribute to a range of serious effects, including arthritis, damage to the developing brain, reduced thyroid function, and possibly osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in adolescent males.
Communities Are Starting to Get the Message
In recent years, communities throughout the United States and Canada have started to reassess the conventional wisdom of fluoridating their water. Many of these communities, including over 50 since 2010, are reaching the obvious conclusion: when stripped of its endorsements, well-meaning intentions, and PR-praise, fluoridation simply makes no sense.
Europe reached this conclusion a long time ago. It is now time for the U.S. and other English-speaking nations to follow suit.
Need More Reasons?
- 10 Facts About Fluoride – Fluoride Action Network
- 50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation – Dr. Paul Connett, FAN’s Executive Director (Updated August 2012)
- The Absurdities of Water Fluoridation - Dr. Paul Connett, FAN’s Executive Director
- Why EPA’s Headquarters Professionals Union Opposes Fluoridation – Dr. J. William Hirzy, Senior Vice President, EPA HQ Union
- Medical Ethics
- Fluoridation Chemicals
- Who Opposes Fluoridation?
- A Response to Pro-Fluoridation Claims
Voices of Opposition Have Been Suppressed Since Early Days of Fluoridation
Ever since the Public Health Service (PHS) endorsed fluoridation in 1950, detractors have charged that PHS and the medical and dental establishment, such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Dental Association (ADA), have suppressed adverse scientific information about its effects. Some of those who generally support fluoridation make similar charges.
Fluoridation of Water: Questions about health risks and benefits remain after more than 40 years
Chemical & Engineering News' infamous and thorough review of the science underlying water fluoridation.
Commentary: FDA gives another reason to go to Congress
One of the most extraordinary derelictions of government oversight on health matters has been the abject failure of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to have regulated arguably the most prescribed medication in US history - fluoride. Yes, they have issued warnings on the back of toothpaste packages that the product should not be swallowed, but they have never regulated fluoride as a prescription drug or as a drug prescribed for delivery in the public water supply.
Water Fluoridation & the Quality of Evidence Problem
Advocates of fluoridating water often state that there "thousands" of studies that prove fluoridation to be both safe and effective. In 2000, however, a systematic review of the literature commissioned by the British Government ("York Review") found that, under current standards for what constitutes good medical evidence, there has not
Fluoride & Osteosarcoma: A Timeline
Several human epidemiological studies have found an association between fluoride in drinking water and the occurrence of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in young males. These studies are consistent with the National Toxicology Program's (NTP) cancer bioassay which found that fluoride-treated male rats had an dose-dependent increase in osteosarcoma. Although a number of studies have failed to detect an association between fluoride and osteosarcoma, none of these studies have measured the risk of fluoride at specific windows in time, which based on recent results, is the critical question with respect to fluoride and osteosarcoma.
Allergy and Hypersensitivity to Fluoride
there are reasonable grounds for concluding that there are individuals in whom allergy or hypersensitivity to fluoride has been demonstrated.
Organic Consumers Association Recommends Voting NO on Water Fluoridation
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a consumer protection and organic agriculture advocacy group based in Finland, Minnesota. It was formed in 1998 in the wake of the mass backlash by organic consumers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture's controversial proposed regulations for organic food. The OCA is an online
Why Water Shouldn't Be Fluoridated: An Interview with Dr. Paul Connett
Fluoridation has been with us for nearly 50 years, but the debate over the wisdom of adding trace amounts of a chemical to municipal water supplies to prevent dental cavities never seems to stop. Paul Connett, a U.S. academic and public-health advocate, is the leading international spokesman for the movement to
Countries that Fluoridate Their Water
Quick Facts: Most developed nations do not fluoridate their water. In western Europe, for example, only 3% of the population consumes fluoridated water. While 25 countries have water fluoridation programs, 11 of these countries have less than 20% of their population consuming fluoridated water: Argentina (19%), Guatemala (13%), Panama (15%), Papa New Guinea
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